All questions

Legal and regulatory framework

i Legislation and jurisprudence

Most regulations applicable to gambling and betting operations under French law are contained in the Civil Code, the Homeland Security Code and the Online Gaming Law, but the provision of a number of other gambling products is governed by specific laws and regulations.

Civil, commercial and criminal courts have all rendered decisions whose study is relevant when considering French gambling law as an ensemble, but statutes remain the primary source to examine in France. In terms of gambling, French case law is mostly limited to the interpretation of that primary source.

Over its decade of existence, the ARJEL (now ANJ) delivered a number of decisions and opinions that have helped to outline the French gambling landscape, and the ANJ website, on which all the decisions taken by the ARJEL and the ANJ are available, is one of the first to consult when considering whether an online gambling activity could be licit under French law.

ii The regulator

Gambling in France is regulated by different public authorities and administrative bodies, whose jurisdiction depends on the nature of the considered gambling activity and, in particular, whether it is land-based or online.

Land-based gambling regulator

The activities of the FDJ and the PMU as holders of exclusive rights are supervised by the ANJ.

The Ministry of Home Affairs issues all land-based gaming licences, regardless of the type of establishment considered. While the opening of any casino or PMU retailer has been subject to prior authorisation from the ministry for years, a recent decree has imposed the same obligation for the opening of any FDJ retailer.10

The Renseignements Généraux (the intelligence division of the French police) were for a very long time responsible for enforcing compliance with French gambling law, but were dismantled in 2008 as part of a reorganisation of French intelligence services. The Service Central des Courses et Jeux (SCCJ), a new police service specifically focused on gambling activities and responsible for the surveillance of gambling establishments and hippodromes, was then created by the adoption of a decree.11

If local prefects perform most of the day-to-day administrative functions in relation to land-based gambling, diverse commissions (in particular, several committees within the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry for the Economy and Finance) have exclusive regulatory powers in relation to specific gambling activities.

Online gambling regulator

Online gambling in France is supervised by the ANJ, a public entity created by Ordinance No. 2019-1015 reforming the regulation of gambling and games of chance that was adopted on 2 October 2019 and came into force on 1 January 2020. The ANJ has replaced the ARJEL, which had been created by the Online Gambling Law in 2010. The ANJ took over the ARJEL's powers and has vast and numerous powers and is, in particular, responsible for granting licences, enforcing online gambling regulations, as well as fighting against gambling addiction, illegal gambling websites, and fraud and money laundering.

iii Remote and land-based gambling

French gambling law, as previously discussed, is built around the principle of a general prohibition, in which successive laws have carved various exceptions and exemptions. Laws and regulations have defined the conditions under which the FDJ can offer lottery games or sports betting and the PMU can offer horse-race betting, but land-based gambling itself does not have an actual definition under French law.

Remote gambling does not have a legal definition, either. The activities authorised under licence by the Online Gambling Law are indeed remote gambling, but they only cover internet-based gambling services and one should therefore consider that it does not apply to any other form of remote gambling (through post or phone communication, in particular). One should, however, note that the French authorities consider that the licence granted to online gambling operators authorises them to offer mobile phone applications to provide access to their services, if such applications offer the necessary guarantees in terms of security and if the offered services are compliant with the granted licence.

iv Land-based gamblingNational lottery

The most notable derogation from the prohibition of gambling in France dates back to a 1933 decree that authorised the creation by the French government of a monopolistic national lottery, which has survived to this date. This national lottery is now called the Loto and is managed by the FDJ, as detailed above.

Besides the Loto, EuroMillions and the other games of chance offered by the FDJ, lotteries that are made exclusively for charitable or non-profit purposes, traditional lotto and bingo games offered to a limited audience for an insignificant price, fairground lotteries and promotional lotteries offered within the context of marketing campaigns can also be authorised, subject to compliance with a number of specific rules.

Horse betting

Horse racing has an ancient history in France, and horse-racing companies have been allowed to offer pool betting since the late 19th century (the term 'pari-mutuel' and the concept it describes, which are now commonly used across jurisdictions, are originally French). Betting offers on horse racing are now subject to exclusive rights held by the PMU.

Sports betting

Sports betting has been allowed in France since 1985,12 but has been subjected to a monopoly. The FDJ, the semi-public company that holds exclusive rights on lottery games, was given exclusive rights on the organisation of sports betting in French territory. If that holding of exclusive rights still exists today, its scope has been reduced to cover only land-based sports betting since the adoption of the Online Gambling Law.

Casinos

Casinos are allowed only in specific areas in France, subject to a licence by the Ministry of Home Affairs and placed under the authority of that ministry and that of the Ministry of the Budget. Casinos are heavily regulated, and the very nature and rules of the games that they are allowed to offer is determined by the public authorities.

Gaming circles and clubs

All gaming circles have closed down, except a single one in Paris, and a new form of company called a gaming club was created under French law in 2017. Gaming clubs must obtain a specific licence from public authorities and they are allowed to offer even fewer games than casinos, but they are not subject to the specific geographical restrictions applicable to casinos.

Greyhound racing and cockfight betting

Greyhound betting is also allowed, but greyhound races are not very popular in France, and the audience interested in gambling on such events is quite small. The audience interested in betting on cockfights is even more limited, but the practice remains tolerated as part of a cultural exception specific to very few localities.

v Remote gambling

Any operator, whether foreign or France-based, that intends to market online gambling services targeting French users needs to apply for a gambling licence with ANJ.

To assess whether an operator targets French users, several criteria will be taken into account, and the authorities will, in particular, verify whether the website is registered with a .fr domain name or drafted in the French language and whether the offered services are blocked for French users or presented in a manner that appears to specifically target French users. For instance, French courts have considered that a foreign-based online gambling website registered with a .fr domain name, containing the mention 'First Poker Website in France' and indicating a French contact phone number, should be governed by French law.

French authorities provide an exhaustive list of the games and events that are authorised under the Online Gambling Law:

  1. poker games: Texas Hold'em limit; Texas Hold'em pot limit; Texas Hold'em no limit; Omaha 4 High pot limit; Omaha 4 High/Low limit; Omaha 4 High/Low pot limit; Omaha 5 High pot limit; Seven Card Stud Poker High limit; Seven Card Stud Poker High/Low limit; Seven Card Stud Poker Razz (or Low) limit; Triple draw deuce to seven (2–7) Lowball (or low) limit;
  2. sports betting: a list detailing the sports competitions that can be subject to online gambling and the types of events in such competitions that can be subject to betting (number of goals, final score, etc.) is regularly updated by French authorities; and
  3. horse betting: a schedule mentioning the horse race events that can be subject to online gambling is published by French authorities every year.
vi Ancillary mattersProtection of minors

Specific decrees expressly forbid the provision of any gambling services to minors and the payment of any gambling gain to minors.13 By the adoption of the PACTE Act on 11 April 2019, the legislator empowered the government to establish a fine for the sale or free offer of gambling to minors. In this regard, Decree No. 2020-1773 of 21 December 2020 has created two fourth-class offences (up to €750) punishing non-compliance with the prohibition on the sale or free offer of gambling to minors and the failure to post notices aimed at protecting minors and persons prohibited from gambling.

Gambling operators are required to prevent minors, whether or not emancipated, from participating in any gambling activity (the participation of minors in gambling activities is only allowed for very specific types of games, such as lotteries in relation to non-profit purposes, fairground activities and traditional bingos).

Licensed online gambling operators must require all players to indicate their age at subscription and upon every subsequent visit to their websites. In addition, their websites must feature a warning stating that minors cannot participate in gambling activities, whose precise contents and appearance are strictly regulated.

Protection against gambling addiction

Any individual who wishes to fight his or her gambling addiction can request his or her voluntary inclusion14 on a list of compulsive gamblers, which is communicated to casino, gaming club and gambling website operators.

Since 31 December 2020, the management of the voluntary gambling bans file, previously held by the Ministry of Home Affairs, has been entrusted to the ANJ. The ANJ now offers a renovated and easily accessible service, simplifying the registration process and reducing the time needed to validate this step. Players no longer have to go to a police station, and their registration can now be done entirely online.

All such operators must actively prevent listed players from participating in any gambling activities. Licensed online operators are also required to:

  1. display information on their websites regarding the existence of the list and the possibility for players to receive help;
  2. offer self-exclusion mechanisms to players seeking temporary or definitive withdrawal from the games;
  3. immediately terminate the account of any individual that becomes listed; and
  4. require, as part of their account creation processes, that players set a weekly limit on the amounts that can be transferred from their bank account to their gambling account and on the cumulative amount of stakes they can gamble.

FDJ and PMU retailers are not required to verify whether players are listed as compulsive gamblers.

Personal licences

Land-based casino managers and board members must obtain an authorisation from the Ministry of Home Affairs, which can be suspended or revoked at any time. Indeed, changes in the situation of the managers and board members are closely monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Similarly, all staff members with responsibilities relating to access control, security personnel and CCTV operators must obtain a specific authorisation from the French Ministry of Home Affairs.15 Newly authorised staff members must undergo special training to monitor players and detect signs of compulsive and addictive gambling.16

The rules applicable to online gambling operators are less comprehensive, but the ANJ may refuse to grant a licence to an operator if any of its owners, managers or executive officers have been convicted in the course of the previous 10 years for committing any of a series of criminal offences listed by decree.

Software

A guide detailing the technical requirements applicable to online gambling on the ANJ website provides details regarding the technical requirements that online gambling operators must comply with. In particular, the software (and each new major version of the software) must be approved by the ANJ prior to the beginning of any online gambling operation using the software concerned.

Applications must contain the source code of the concerned software and random number generator, as applicable. It must also contain a security vulnerability analysis detailing the reasons of such vulnerabilities, how they affect the operation of the software and how they can be remedied.

The application for approval must also contain a specific analysis that covers potential vulnerabilities and, in particular, establishes through statistical tests that:

  1. the generating processes are actually random;
  2. the random results are not foreseeable even with a thorough knowledge of the algorithm, the generator and previous results; and
  3. generated data series are not repeatable.
vii Financial payment mechanisms

Prior to using online gambling services, players are required by French regulation to open a player account.

French regulations provide for specific rules for the funding of players' accounts, as well as for the reimbursement of funds to players. A player's account may only be credited by its holder or by the gaming operator either for winnings earned by the player or as a promotional offer.

Provisioning of a player's account by its holder may only be carried out by means of payment instruments issued by a duly authorised payment service provider (PSP), including payments by credit card, prepaid card, electronic money wallet and wire transfer.

The player's assets can only be transferred to the player's payment account. The player must communicate to the operator the references of this account when opening his or her player's account. However, cryptocurrencies in themselves are not covered by the categories of payment methods authorised.

Taxation

i Taxation imposed on gambling operators

Diverse forms of taxation and social contributions are imposed on the lottery tickets sold by the FDJ, for a total representing about 25 per cent of their costs.

Casinos are subject to progressive taxation, which varies depending on the total amount of their gross gambling revenue. Gaming clubs are subject to a similar form of taxation. A player's casino gains in excess of €1,500 are subject to 12 per cent taxation, which shall be directly collected by the casino.

Since the vote of the PACTE Act, in 2019, sports betting operators and lottery operators (whether land-based or online) are subject to taxation based on the actual turnover resulting from the difference between the bets made by players and the players' gains as well as a social security contribution; whereas horse-betting operators' and online poker operators' taxation is still based on the total amount of wagers. In addition, a specific tax applies on the commissions earned by French companies on amounts bet on French horse-racing events from abroad.

In addition to the various taxes imposed on the national and local level, each sport betting operator must execute an agreement with the relevant sports federation for the purpose of specifying the cost of the 'betting right' to be paid by the operator to the federation.

ii Taxation imposed on gamblers

As a general principle under French fiscal law, gambling gains are not subject to income tax.30 The interest generated by such gains, however, is subject to such taxation, and winners of important gains could be subject to the French wealth tax, but the law has recently been modified to apply only to real-estate wealth.

Gains earned by professional players that appear to depend more on skill and strategy than on mere chance (notably with the game of poker) shall be filed with the tax authorities as non-commercial profits and are subject to French income tax. For the purpose of the enforcement of such law, any person who earns substantial and regular amounts by playing games, so that such activity could be regarded as professional, shall be considered a professional player.